The NHL powers that be, in their never-ending quest to improve the product, have added a wrinkle or two to the game for the coming season. In this blog, I’ll focus on one in particular.
In the coming, 2015-16 season, hockey fans can look forward to a tweak to the overtime format. Rather than (a maximum of) five minutes of 4-on-4 action, deadlocked teams will now play in a 3-on-3 format over that same span of time.
Why the change? The NHL consistently polls fans and hockey people alike on the state and appeal of the game, and the consensus is the shootout runs against the grain of this great team sport. Two teams go at it tooth and nail for 65 minutes and then, when a decision cannot be reached, the match is decided by a series of individual breakaways. You can appreciate the contradiction, no?
Is the new 3-on-3 format guaranteed to reduce the number of shootouts? Well…yes. This experiment was put to the test at the minor-league level during the 2014-15 season. By roughly the halfway mark of the American Hockey League (AHL) season, the frequency of shootouts dropped from 64.7 percent down to 25.7 percent. The expectation that fewer players on the ice would allow more room to create offense, effectively proved true. Plus, more opportunities naturally translates into more goals.
At the end of the day, I like the change. There should be more games decided by way of team play. And I promise you…the pace of play will be quick. Teams are apt to play more aggressive when presented with all that newfound open ice.
I’d go so far as to say this change benefits your Nashville Predators, also. In one season’s worth of play, this group has changed its identity in a marked way; they’re no longer just a stingy, hard-working team. Last year, the Preds gained a reputation for being one of the NHL’s “fast” teams. More dynamic offensively, this group transitions from defense to offense in a hurry - a recipe for success in this new format.
Should be interesting to watch…